The Return of a School of Ca Tru

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Ca Tru
Ca Tru

The debut of Thang Long Ca Tru School not only shows the return of an ancient form of professional organization that fell into oblivion but also a strong recovery of Ca tru, a unique musical genre of Vietnam, recognized by UNESCO as a world intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Ca tru, also known as Hat a dao or Hat noi (ceremonial singing), is an ancient type of chamber music of Vietnam which dates back to the late 15th and early 16th centuries. According to Professor Tran Van Khe, a famous researcher of Vietnamese traditional music, Ca tru is an art form stemming from Vietnam’s native roots. It is performed by members of a school that has clear regulations on how to play musical instruments and learn songs and the evaluation and the selection of singers who must be talented, beautiful and virtuous.

Ca Tru
Ca Tru

To facilitate the business and performance of the schools, those who were engaged in traditional professions gathered together and established professional organizations. These included guilds, associations and unions and the most typical organization of Ca tru at that time were schools. The school was organized carefully with regulations and rules to counsel, reward and punish its members. It was led by the most talented and prestigious artists in the field. Any Ca tru school in the past consisted of regulations on managing, arranging the work of performers and helping maintain the principles, manners of working, hierarchy and virtues of artists. For instance, respect for the teacher is one of the most important principles in the school. The learners thought of the teachers as their parents so after each show they often donated a small amount of their payment to their teachers.

In feudal society, when people disregarded singers because of the belief in “good-for-nothing singing” (singers did not belong to any walk of life), the establishment of Ca tru schools made a contribution to honoring and affirming the position and role of the artists in society. Therefore, a Ca tru school was evaluated as a professional organization with strict and humanitarian principles.

A school of Ca Tru
A school of Ca Tru

Despite having special values, Ca tru schools experienced turmoil and there was a time when they disappeared. Thanks to the tireless efforts of those who have a great passion for the art, Ca tru has been restored and developed in recent years. After many years of researching, the artists in Thang Long Ca tru Club, including famous musicians and singers Nguyen Phu De, Nguyen Thi Chuc and Nguyen Thi Hue, made a debut of Thang Long Ca Tru School. The school helps the viewers see valuable rites and ceremonies of a traditional Ca tru school, such as the ceremony of presenting the school, the ceremony of allowing singers to start practicing the profession and Cua dinh singing.

It is a good signal for revising and preserving the Vietnamese traditional art form that has been recognized by UNESCO as a world intangible cultural heritage of humanity in need of urgent protection.